It has been said the mark of a great leader is the demands he/she makes upon their followers. Winston Churchill told the British people that he had nothing to offer them but “Blood, sweat, toil, and tears.” in their fight against their enemies during WWII. In the height of the Cold War President John F. Kennedy challenged Americans in his inaugural address when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” In the heat and danger of the Civil Rights Movement Dr. King say “Everyone should have a cause they are willing to lay down their life for.” On this anniversary of 9/11/01 thousands have laid down their lives in response to the attacks on this country 12 years ago.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus spoke of the necessity of total commitment even to the point of death to become one of His disciples. He conveyed this in no uncertain terms when He said to His disciples, “You must take up your cross and follow me.” Why was He so demanding? Well, He knew what the future had in store for His first disciples.
• Andrew would die on a cross.
• Simon Peter would be crucified upside down.
• Bartholomew would be skinned alive.
• James (son of Zebedee) would be beheaded.
• The other James would beaten to death.
• Thomas would be ran through with a lance.
• Matthias, who replaced Judas, would be stoned and beheaded.
• Matthew would be slayed by a sword.
• Thaddeus would be shot to death with arrows.
• Philip would be hung.
Only John would make it through alive, but many believe he was exiled to a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, called Patmos. There John wrote the Book of Revelations. The demands that Jesus makes upon those who follow Him were and are extreme. Christianity is not only a Sunday morning religion. It is a hungering after God to the point of death if need be. It shakes our foundations; topples our priorities; pits us against friends and family; and makes us strangers in this world. We sing, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.” But, we must understand that on many occasions He will push us to the point we will thinks He is too demanding to be a real friend!
Jesus will not let us become too comfortable, too complacent or too routine in our religion, our worship, & our service. He will push us higher and higher, deeper & deeper into the kingdom & the world of the Spirit. As we grow deeper in the Spirit we must yield our control to the Spirit and the Spirit does it’s work through us.
We learn in Luke 14:25 that a large crowd was traveling with Jesus. Now, in large crowds, you will have many motives. Some in this crowd were following because they had seen Jesus feed a multitude of people and they were waiting to be fed physically. Some are following because they had heard about Jesus’ ability to heal and they were waiting for an opportunity to approach him and be healed. Still others were following for the excitement and to see what would happen next. It is safe to say that only a few are truly committed to this itinerant preacher’s teaching. Aware of their multiplicity of motives, Jesus turns to the crowd and tells them what is involved in a true commitment. At this moment the crowd learns, and we also learn, that to follow Jesus…First, we must establish our priorities.
Too often we allow things to stand in the way of what we consider important. I give a few examples to make my point. It appears many people’s free time activities or hobbies interest them more than their families. It appears many people’s job takes priority over their marriage. A television program displaces family conversation over dinner. People may have the best of intentions but their priorities, which are vital to a good and happy life, seems to never be carried out in their day to day living.
Several years ago I read a commentary on-line which recorded how someone using data from surveys calculated how a typical life span of 70 years was spent in the latter part of the 20th century in the United States. Some of these number are extremely surprising:
23 years or 32.9% of those 70 years people worked.
16 years or 22.8% they slept.
8 years or 11.4% was in front of a TV set.
6 years or 8.6% was spent eating.
6 years or 8.6% was spent traveling.
4.5 years or 6.5% was spent on leisure activities.
4 years or 5.7% was dealing with illnesses.
2 years or 2.8% was spent dressing.
0.5 years or o.7% of the surveyed devoted that time of their lives to religion.
When put in these terms we see how little a priority spiritual matters occupy many people’s lives. But, as I said earlier Jesus is a demanding leader. A thousand times more demanding than any we will ever know.
To be continued next week…